LAKEWOOD RANCH -- In a game featuring two standout pitchers, finding a way to manufacture runs was essential.
Melbourne did it just a little bit better than host Lakewood Ranch and eked out a 2-1 victory over the Mustangs in the Class 7A-Region 3 softball final on Monday.
The loss ended Lakewood Ranch's string of two straight region championships and two state final four appearances.
Melbourne (26-3) scored a run in the first on a delayed steal and broke a 1-1 deadlock in the sixth when it took advantage of an infield error.
"When you get to this point with a just a few teams left it's always the mistakes that make the biggest difference," Lakewood Ranch head coach Tony Cummins said.
Lakewood Ranch, which finishes its season at 22-8, couldn't solve junior right hander Shelby Alsdorf, a 6-foot-2 junior who came into the game with a 0.18 ERA and had 130 strikeouts in 78 2/3 innings.
She finished with nine strikeouts and allowed three hits and a walk. Lakewood Ranch junior Amanda Rak also pitched strong, but couldn't get the same support from her defense.
"Amanda did a great job. She is a gamer and settled in and absolutely did what she had to do," Cummins said.
After the game, Cummins announced he was stepping down as coach to spend more time with his daughter, Riana, a junior at Lakewood Ranch. In his three years as the Mustangs head coach, he won two region titles and went to the region final three times and the state final four twice.
"It's my last game," Cummins said. "I will stay at the school and teach and become assistant athletic director, but I am re
tiring from coaching. My daughter has been ill, and I need to spend more time with her and my family. I will help in trying to find a new coach."
Mackenzie Soughers led off the game with an infield single. She was on third with two outs and runners at the corners. The runner on first started for second and then held up. Soughers broke for home and scored before Lakewood Ranch could get the runner going to second.
"That one is on me. I told the catcher to throw through and I should've done that," Cummins said. "I heard their coach tell the runner at third to stay, but obviously she didn't. They fooled me on that one, but I thought we would score a lot more runs."
Lakewood Ranch tied the game in the bottom of the fifth. Talli Sharp walked, was sacrificed to second and scored on a single by Maddie Biggs.
In the sixth, Soughers reached second on an infield error, moved to third on a ground out and scored on a fielder's choice ground ball to second.
"Our season has been a combination of manufacturing runs and we also have girls who can hit it deep," Melbourne head coach Brad Soughers said. "When my leadoff batter gets on we generally score and she scored both our runs. That first inning was a called play. There was no way the runner on first was going all the way. I talk a lot and I know people are always listening.
But the girls know what to do in those situations."
With the bases empty and two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Jackie Schoff almost manufactured her own run. The Lakewood Ranch junior singled to left, stole second and took third when the catch threw the ball into centerfield. Biggs walked to put runners on the corners, but Alsdorf recorded a strikeout to end the game.
"When she is on she is very tough to hit and she was on pretty good," Soughers said. "I felt comfortable that if she was on, they were going to have trouble hitting her because they had trouble with pitchers similar to her. She is 13-2, and her two losses were hard luck losses because we made errors."
Lakewood Ranch had an opportunity score in the second. Kaylee Misiti singled to open the inning and reached third after a hit batter and a sacrifice, but Alsdorf got a ground out to end the frame.
"She is the best pitcher we faced all season. We weren't used to her speed," Schoff said. "Ending the season like this is kind of sad. We are a young team, and everyone was doubting themselves in the beginning, but in middle of season we started winning games and having fun."